The gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh has provoked global outrage over the failure of police and judicial systems to protect women and ensure their human rights.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published March 11, 2015
On Sunday I watched the CBC documentary India's Daughter. It was disturbing, heartbreaking and infuriating all at the same time.
Twenty-three year old Jyoti Singh went to a movie with a male friend. At 8:33 PM, they boarded a private bus to return home. During that twenty-minute ride, Jyoti was gang-raped and dumped at the side of a highway. 15 days later, Jyoti died from her injuries.
The following day I had the pleasure of attending an International Women's Day luncheon where Aruna Papp, Canada's foremost expert on honour based violence, was the keynote speaker. Both Aruna and the documentary made it clear that despite a growing educated middle class, India is still a patriarchal paradise.
Aruna used the phrase, "modernization, not westernization." Essentially, this means that men want the benefit of financial progress and independence without any advancements in women's rights. Regardless of their status, education or economic independence, women will still be considered chattel, less than men, without human rights.
From the documentary it's clear that this view is held by educated as well as uneducated men. I was horrified when one of the defense lawyers for the rapists stated matter-of-factly:
If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight."
So, seeing a movie with a man who is not a relative and being out at night was cause enough to rape Jyoti in order to teach her to change her western ways. Killing her simply sent a stronger message to all women: don't try to raise yourself above your station in life.
In India a woman is raped every twenty minutes. Since the rape and murder of Jyoti, reported rapes have increased 35 percent. But the police, judicial system and national government are failing to protect women and ensure their basic human rights.
In Canada, one in three women will be sexually assaulted. Only six percent of assaults are reported to police. Even fewer go to trial.
According to the Native Women's Association of Canada, Aboriginal women experience violence at a rate three and a half times greater than non-Aboriginal women. In fact, young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence than Canadian women of the same age.
We too have a culture of rape rooted in systemic violence against women. In the case of Aboriginal women, this rape culture is compounded by racism.
In March, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) released a scathing report admonishing Canada's Stephen Harper government for ignoring calls for a National Public Inquiry independent of political process into our missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women.
The report also called for a National Action Plan that would address the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women as well as the failure of our police and justice system to protect Aboriginal women from violence.
The report stated that money and people must be made available to implement the recommendations arising from the plan, as well as to monitor, evaluate and implement changes as required.
Once again, the fate of marginalized women lies in the hands of patriarchal institutions - namely, the police, the justice system and the Harper government.
It's time to let the Harper government know that Canadians will no longer tolerate the federal government intentionally disregarding the basic human rights of Canada's Aboriginal women and girls.
A debate between the leaders of the federal parties dedicated to women's issues would be perfect forum in which to discuss our appalling treatment of Aboriginal women.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May and NDP leader Thomas Muclair are ready to discuss issues unique to women, but we need the other parties to be at their podiums as well.
Please go to http://chn.ge/1BDDaDh and sign the Up for Debate petition encouraging the Bloc Quebecois, Liberals and PC to join this important discussion.
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